Q&A: Drew Wolitarsky on becoming a Canadian citizen and his jealousy of the current Gophers offense

The former Gophers wide receiver currently plays in the Canadian Football League for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Gophers running back Jonathan Femi-Cole gets tackled by Purdue at TCF Bank Stadium on Nov. 5, 2016.

Meagan Lynch

Gophers running back Jonathan Femi-Cole gets tackled by Purdue at TCF Bank Stadium on Nov. 5, 2016.

Owen Mageau

This week, the Minnesota Daily talked with former Gophers wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky. Wolitarsky currently plays for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL. He made 130 catches in his collegiate career for eighth all-time among Gophers players and was one of the team’s vocal leaders during the 2016 boycott.

You had a tryout with the Minnesota Vikings this summer, what was the most important thing that you are taking out of that experience?

Just going into a new system, being able to pick up plays, learning on the fly and playing with top competition. I think that really set me up for going to Canada, where I’d have to do the same thing. It was kind of like training for when I actually would have to go out and play as part of a team here [in Winnipeg]. 

What led you to signing with the Blue Bombers in the CFL? 

A lot. Basically when the NFL didn’t work out, I knew I could potentially get my citizenship being a first decedent from my mom. We got an attorney who helped us. What usually takes five months, [I got] my citizenship approved in one day. We then got that out to the Canadian Football League Players Association, they got that to the teams, and then eventually teams started calling me. Ironically, the only team I didn’t get a call from was the Blue Bombers. Then, on the day of the supplemental draft, the Blue Bombers called me and told me that they had drafted me. That was kind of cool. 

Can you tell us a little bit more about your mom’s connection to Canada? 

My mom grew up in Montreal and my dad moved there when he was young. It was where they met and how I came to be. My mom had always been pushing for me to get dual citizenship, so when I did get my dual citizenship, it was like smashing two birds with one stone. 

The CFL is different from American football, what adjustments have you had to make? 

Learning the waggle, the motions, the rules of the game are different as well. My coaches have done a great job putting me in there and letting me practice. I’ve also done a lot of studying on my own because I didn’t get here until game three, when they were already planning to win games. I’ve also had a lot of cool guys helping me out. 

What has been the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make going from life on campus to living in Winnipeg?

Basically, just adjusting from being around a lot of guys that are around my own age and going through the same things as you, to being with guys that are much older than me. Some of the guys have kids. I’m also living by myself in a one-bedroom apartment, so it’s different than coming home to your friends, your teammates and maybe even your girlfriend. 

Is there anything you miss about playing for the University of Minnesota? 

My teammates, the camaraderie, the fan base, my friends and the restaurants. I just miss Minnesota in general. You grow up somewhere and make a lot of connections and roots there. Sometimes it’s hard to move away and start all over. I definitely will be visiting.

Besides wins and losses, is there anything you would change about your time with the Gophers?

I wouldn’t change anything. I am who I am today because of what has happened to me. 

Have you been able to follow the Gophers this year?

I caught their game the other day. I’d say I was pretty jealous of the offense, it looked like they were having fun. I thought [wide receiver Tyler  Johnson] played really well, he stepped up and was making plays. I hope he can continue to do that because I know they need that threat and he looked really good.

Tyler Johnson did have a great game, what was your opinion of him last year?

[Former quarterback Mitch Leidner] and I thought he was a very respectful kid, came in right away and was taking notes and just seemed a lot older than he was. I think that’s going to get him places.